Show an ad over header. AMP

The Biden doctrine: Allies matter

Foreign policy will look drastically different if Joe Biden defeats President Trump in November, advisers tell Axios — starting with a Day One announcement that the U.S. is re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and new global coordination of the coronavirus response.

The big picture: If Trump's presidency started the "America First" era of withdrawal from global alliances, Biden's team says his presidency would be the opposite: a re-engagement with the world and an effort to rebuild those alliances — fast.

  • Biden will be pressed in the coming months for more details about how his proposals have changed since his time as Barack Obama's vice president, but his choice of advisers and his remarks thus far serve as guideposts about his thinking.

Driving the news: Biden advisers who watched the 2008-09 financial crisis consume Obama’s early days say that, similarly, the domestic challenges posed by the coronavirus will demand much of the next administration’s attention while the global impacts may compete with other priorities.

  • “Job one will be to get COVID under control,” said Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime foreign policy adviser.
  • Colin Kahl, a former Biden aide who is familiar with his views, said if Biden is elected, “Day One is making sure that our approach to COVID and the associated economic crisis is coordinated internationally" — as well as re-entering the Paris accord to combat global warming.
  • The pandemic doesn’t recognize borders, and beyond the obvious health implications, team Biden is concerned about a potential global food crisis, security vulnerabilities, worldwide depression and an emerging market debt crunch.

But the coronavirus is just the beginning. Biden's advisers look at the world they could inherit and feel a sense of dread and urgency in every time zone: Climate change, Iran’s breakout time for a nuclear weapon, North Korea’s missile advancement, a revanchist Russia and an assertive China.

  • They also worry about stress fractures in the post-WWII international architecture, exacerbated by Trump's "America First" approach.
  • “At the top of the agenda at the outset will be signaling to our closes democratic allies that we’re back, that alliances and partnerships matter,” Kahl said.
  • They take some comfort in Biden's own history of personal diplomacy and a commitment to allies. "There's a lot of low hanging fruit, like shoring up alliances,’’ said Derek Chollet, a state and defense department officials in the Obama administration. “Joe Biden is really good at relationships and alliances."

Don't forget: In July 2008, Obama did a world tour promising to end the Bush administration's foreign policy approach and embrace multilateralism.

  • The pandemic has ruled out globetrotting for Biden this summer, but his foreign policy approach looks similar, starting with a pledge to unwind Trumpism on the international stage.

Our thought bubble: The core Biden foreign policy team served in the Obama administration.

  • Blinken, who during Biden’s earlier days in the U.S. Senate was his staff director on the Committee on Foreign Relations, served as Biden's national security adviser in the White House and later as deputy secretary of state under John Kerry.
  • Jake Sullivan, who joined the Obama administration in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, later served as Biden’s national security adviser and was instrumental in the Iran deal.
  • Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s third national security adviser and first UN ambassador, has been advising the campaign and is among the women being considered for Biden's running mate.
  • Samantha Power, Obama’s second UN ambassador, is very involved in the Biden campaign and is talked about as a potential secretary of state.
  • The Donilon brothers, long in Biden’s personal and professional orbit, served in Obama’s White House — Mike in the VP’s office, and Tom as Obama’s second national security adviser.
  • Julie Smith, a Europe specialist who started in the Pentagon and then served as Biden's deputy national security adviser, could find herself as ambassador to NATO or the UN.

Between the lines: Biden and Obama had several serious policy differences. In some cases, Biden played devil's advocate to help Obama arrive at a decision, but there were some genuine divergences.

  • Biden was for providing the Ukrainians Javelin anti-tank missiles; Obama was opposed. Biden was opposed to erecting a no-fly zone in Libya; Obama imposed one. Biden was against a troop surge in Afghanistan. Obama first added 17,000 and then 30,000. Biden was opposed to calling for Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak to leave office. Obama hastened his exit.

Though Biden's policies would be quite different from Trump's, his team may embrace a tactic that Trump also favors when trying to achieve major strategic goals: Overwhelm the circuits and push on multiple fronts at once.

  • “I don't think this can really be sequenced,” Blinken said. "I don't think we'll have the luxury of choice.”
  • At the same time, Ned Price, a former CIA and Obama NSC officialsays there's an understanding that "most of the important things can't be done with a flip of the switch."
  • "China is not a 100 day project; China is a presidency project," said Chollet, now at the German Marshall Fund.

Quibi says it's shutting down

Quibi, the mobile-only video subscription streaming service, is shutting down, the company announced Wednesday. The company said the decision was made to preserve shareholder equity.

Why it matters: Quibi had struggled to hit its subscriber growth targets amid the global pandemic. The app launched six months ago.

Keep reading... Show less

House antitrust chair talks USA vs. Google

The Justice Department filed a 63-page antitrust lawsuit against Google related to the tech giant's search and advertising business. This comes just weeks after the House subcommittee on antitrust issued its own scathing report on Google and other Big Tech companies, arguing they've become digital monopolies.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, about Google, the DOJ's lawsuit and Congress' next move.

Boeing research shows disinfectants kill coronavirus on airplanes

Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.

Keep reading... Show less

Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a vote on Republicans' $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill, a far less comprehensive package than the $1.8 trillion+ deal currently being negotiated between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

Why it matters: There's little appetite in the Senate for a stimulus bill with a price tag as large as what President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling for. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "skinny" proposal was mostly seen as a political maneuver, as it had little chance of making it out of the Senate.

Keep reading... Show less

Hunter Biden firestorm underscores the hazy line between politics and influence campaigns

The recent firestorm over the New York Post’s publication of stories relying on data from a hard drive allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden shows the increasingly hazy line between domestic political “dirty tricks” and a foreign-sponsored disinformation operation.

Why it matters: This haziness could give determined actors cover to conduct influence operations aimed at undermining U.S. democracy through channels that just look like old-fashioned hard-nosed politics.

Keep reading... Show less

"I stood up for that": Pope Francis voices support for same-sex civil unions

Pope Francis voiced his support for same-sex civil unions for the first time as pope in the documentary “Francesco,” which premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival, per the Catholic News Agency.

Why it matters: The pope’s remarks represent a break from the position of the Roman Catholic Church, which has long taught that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered" and contrary to natural law.

Keep reading... Show less

Countries waiting to see if Trump wins before moving on Israel normalization

The White House is attempting to leverage momentum from Israel's normalization deals with Bahrain and the UAE to get more Arab countries on board before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: President Trump wants Sudan's removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list to be accompanied by a pre-election announcement on Israel.

Keep reading... Show less

Poll: 92% of battleground state voters are "extremely motivated to vote"

91% of likely voters nationally say they are "extremely motivated to vote," including 92% in battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to a Change Research/CNBC Poll.

Why it matters: The 2020 election could see record-breaking levels of voter turnout. Voters last week cast ballots at five times the rate they did at this point in the 2016 election, per the U.S. Elections Project. Over 39 million ballots have been cast in early voting states as of Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories